Vocational Rehabilitation (VR): What are the Facts?

A young man in graduation robesIf you have a disability and are seeking to become employed, one of the tools in your toolkit is likely to be Vocational Rehabilitation. VR can provide a wide array of services to help you develop and reach your employment objectives, and maximize your employability. As with other services, it helps to be a smart customer when advocating for yourself for the VR services you need to become successfully employed. Here are answers to questions you may have.

Does VR assist people with severe disabilities? Yes, VR must assist all eligible individuals. The eligibility criteria require that the individual be able to benefit from VR services “in terms of an employment outcome” Before VR can determine a person is too severely disabled to benefit from VR services, it must “conduct an exploration of the individual’s abilities, capabilities, and capacity to perform in realistic work situations”. This exploration can include trial work experiences, with the provision of assistive technology devices and services and personal assistance services, and if necessary, an extended evaluation for as long as necessary to determine whether the person can benefit in terms of an employment outcome.

What is an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)? The IPE is a written plan that sets forth the employment outcome the person chooses consistent with their abilities and interests, describes the rehabilitation services the person needs to achieve the employment outcome, and includes timelines for achieving the outcome. Federal regulations require VR to “look beyond options in entry-level employment for VR program participants who are capable of more challenging work.” It should include who is responsible for what, including costs of services, if any. The IPE can be developed in several different ways, including with or without assistance from VR.

What services can VR provide to help me become employed? There is a long list of services VR can provide in order to help a person to develop job skills, get a job, keep a job, or regain a job. Some but not all of the things on the list include: assessment, counseling, assistive technology, personal assistance services, transportation, post-employment services, interpreter services, orientation and mobility services, home modification, driver education, physical and mental restoration services, services to family members, tools, equipment, start-up stocks for businesses, and technical assistance to conduct market analyses or develop business plans.

Can VR provide transportation? Yes. VR can pay for travel and related expenses in connection with the VR services you receive.  It is currently NH VR policy not to purchase vans, but it will pay for vehicle modifications if those modifications are needed to reach your employment goal. VR has set cost limits on modifications, which can be waived based on a variety of factors.

Can VR provide driver’s education? Yes. VR can provide driver evaluation or training if it supports the employment goal in your plan.

Can VR pay for basic education? Yes, if it supports the employment goal in your plan.

Can VR pay for medical treatment or equipment? Yes, if you need it to help you reach your employment objective. This can include glasses, hearing aids, psychiatric treatment and medications, prostheses and orthoses, dental services, corrective surgery, and other medical services. VR has set some financial limits on some of these items, but the cost measures can be waived due to many factors. VR will also ask you to use other benefits (insurance) to pay for these medical services before it will assume the cost.

Can VR pay for personal assistance services? Yes. VR can provide personal assistance services if they are necessary for you to achieve an employment outcome, and only while you are receiving other VR services. These services are to assist you to perform daily living activities that you would typically do without assistance if you did not have a disability. The services must be designed to increase your control in life and your ability to perform everyday activities on or off the job.

Can VR help me start a small business? Yes. VR can assist you in several ways, including helping you purchase tools, equipment, licenses, and initial stocks and supplies. VR can provide consultation, technical assistance, and other resources to help you start up your business.

Can VR pay for college or graduate school? Yes, if it is “necessary to achieve a vocational goal consistent with an individual’s capacities, abilities, and choices”. It is VR’s current policy to approve graduate school only with the approval of the Director of VR or the Director’s designee. There are also certain limits on the costs VR will pay for postsecondary education, but there are numerous exceptions to these limits.

After I am successfully employed, can VR still provide services if I need them? Yes. VR can provide post-employment services if they are needed to maintain, regain, or advance in suitable employment.

How long can VR services last? Services can last until either the person has been determined, based on clear and convincing evidence, to be incapable of benefiting from VR services, or the person has achieved their employment outcome. The IPE will contain timelines for achievement of the employment outcome and for the initiation of services.

Can VR decide not to provide certain services if they are available elsewhere? Yes. If you can get comparable services elsewhere, VR may require you to obtain those services. However, there are certain benefits that are exempt from the comparable benefits rule. Moreover, if determining the availability of those services would interrupt or delay your progress towards your employment outcome, a job placement, or if you are at extreme medical risk, VR may not require a determination of availability of those comparable services before providing services itself.

Will I have to pay for any of my services through VR? Maybe.  VR may require you to contribute to certain services if you are financially able to, based on a financial needs test. However, there are certain services that VR may not require you to pay for. These include assessment, counseling, guidance, interpreter or reader services, personal assistance services, and a variety of job-related services. If you receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, VR may not require you to pay for services.

If VR says no, is there anything I can do? Yes. If you are dissatisfied with any decision VR has made in your case, such as an eligibility decision, a decision that you cannot benefit from VR services, or a decision not to provide a given service to you, there are several avenues you can pursue to get a reconsideration of a decision. The state’s rules provide for administrative reviews, mediation, and hearings. The Client Assistance Program at the Governor’s Commission on Disability (see below), or Disability Rights Center - NH, can tell you more about your options. See the list of resources elsewhere in this RAP Sheet for contact information.

What is the Client Assistance Program (CAP)?
The Client Assistance Program (CAP) is an advocacy program for persons with disabilities who are applicants or clients of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) or Independent Living (IL) programs.  The CAP provides information on the Americans with Disabilities Act of Title I of the ADA to anyone.  The CAP makes decisions after considering the facts and merits of each case, the needs of the client, and the available resources.  Contact CAP if you want help with Vocational Rehabilitation or Independent Living services or benefits. All CAP services are free. 

Resources:

NH Department of Vocational Rehabilitation

Client Assistance Program at the Governor's Commission on Disability

Rehabilitation Services Administration, US Department of Education

NH rules: ED 1000, Vocational Rehabilitation Programs

Code of Federal Regulations for Vocational Rehabilitation Services program 34 CFR 361

The Rehabilitation Act

 

 

updated September 8, 2015